Interview with Little King

Interview with Little King

Interview
What memories do you have from watching shows over the years, and is there anything that sticks out?
Hey…good afternoon, Droppers! What’s happening? How’s the Heat Dome? Do you have that there? I’m in the desert for another 4 weeks…let me tell your readers about Heat Domes. No, let’s not. On to better things.
I saw so many Rush shows from 1986 to 2015 that they all kind of run together. I will say that it was always inspiring to see the level of musicianship, production, technical prowess, and levity that Rush brought for 40+ years. Sometimes, in the middle of our set, I’ll draw inspiration from Neil Peart’s precision and work ethic and that will literally cause me to focus harder and play better. WWND?
Not long ago, my buddy (and former bass player for Little King) Shannon Brady was running sound for Jerry Cantrell. He told me he was struggling a little on the first couple shows because Jerry sings quite softly, without a ton of natural projection, so that made me re-examine the intensity with which I sing. Or, really, how dynamic I can be. In a typical Little King set, some passages are quiet, some are absolutely raging, and most are somewhere in between. It is imperative that my mic control is on point so that the FOH sound guy isn’t pushing and pulling with me all evening. Subtle thing, really, but so important not to overcook (or undercook) the vox.
Finally, I took my son to see David Byrne a few years back on the American Utopia tour. Blown away, really. I am a huge Talking Heads fan as well as a fan of his solo catalog, and to see how vibrant and incredibly fresh his band and set was inspired me to get back on stage. If HE can do it like THAT…
How does a setlist come together, and how do you work on a structure that really pulls the audience in?
The keys are as follows:
1. Do I still connect with the lyrics?
2. Can I confidently play and sing the songs at the same time?
3. Do they fit the theme and flow of a dynamic 70+ minute set?
4. What songs require additional instrumentation to really sound as intended, and who is joining us on this particular tour?
On this run, we have added a keyboardist/vocalist named Kris Whitenack and a horn player/vocalist named Christina Thompson. They are both local to Raleigh, NC, where our drummer Scott Marestein lives. He is one of my oldest friends and IS my oldest musical collaborator, so when Scott says “These two are perfect,” I don’t blink.
Little King songs are dense and hard to play, sometimes. We do vary things a bit from set to set, of course, but the crux of our music is in odd times, varied meters, different keys, and wide dynamic range. I want a Little King set to be an EXPERIENCE, not just a rock show. If we can pull you in and wrap our arms around you, we want to be able to kick your ass while hugging you. Or something like that. Essentially, if we can’t pull it off with conviction and passion, it’s not gonna make it.
Keep in mind, some of the songs in our set are over 25 years old! I cannot sing much anymore about the failure of my first marriage…but we do have one song in there called “Narcissus and Echo” that captures that moment in time. It’s universal really, and I do love Greek mythology, so it made the cut! But I don’t feel so connected to that distant past, so one and done and on we go to more recent angst.
What should readers expect from your upcoming US tour?
This is just a short, 3 city tour, so hopefully y’all can expect a few more shows! It’s expensive and disruptive, this touring shit. I don’t make money. I saw a breakdown the other day from a fellow indie touring band of their budget/money in and out, and it looked pretty accurate. That is, bankruptcy.
Having said that, we know we have a limited amount of time to make a mark, and all of the shows are going to be in places that Little King has never played, so I am thrilled to break in a new audience. We are quite clear in our promotion and music that our show won’t be a passive event. The more engaged the audience is, the further we can take them. If we are on top of our game, the music and setlist are designed to do just that! So, a LK concert-goer should expect to take a trip with us.
Soft to Loud, laughing to screaming, preaching and teaching…let’s see how much we can get done in an effort to find your new favorite band, shall we?
Is there somewhere in America that you’d really like to play, that you haven’t done so yet?
YES. So many cities, really. Due to life and responsibilities, Little King took about 15 years off from touring. Only really been back at it since 2022, and so we have a lot of ground to make up. I’ve played solo in New York, but I am working on a couple full band shows in NYC in early 2025. The rest of the East Coast, too…Philly, Baltimore, DC, and more. If we can afford it, we will show up.
The time is coming, though, to hop on a bigger tour. We have the following, we have the music, we have the professionalism and track record, and we will crush! Seriously, after this run and the one in early 2025, I am going to work my ass off at getting us in front of some bigger crowds. Any suggestions?
How would you say that touring has changed/progressed for you over the years? What have been the major differences?
I used to solicit sponsorship from Red Bull and Jack Daniels’…now I am going after Advil and Sleep Number mattresses.
I used to bring a leather carrying case for my extra liver…now I am plotting a tour based on juice bars
I used to show up with 9 guitars and 3 amps…now I have one (large) amp and 3 guitars
I used to send flyers to street teams in each city…now I run useless ad campaigns on social media
I used to care deeply what people thought about Little King…now I do my best and let the chips fall where they may
What do you want this upcoming tour to do for the representation of Little King?
Little King clearly is a vehicle for me to tell my story to strangers. I am somewhat private, especially as I get older, but the lyrics and music are incredibly personal for me. This is my LEGACY, dammit! I am not interested in reflecting back and knowing I could have played or sang better because I sloughed it off.
With Kris and Christina in tow, things will sound different. Different is GOOD! It will still sound like a power trio with embellishment, but I want our live show to embody the things that made me an obsessive musician all those years ago. Showmanship isn’t a lost art, but it’s not always quite as authentic as maybe it should be. I love a show, but it has to feel somewhat spontaneous and like live theater rather than a movie…that is, it could go off the rails at any minute. That excitement captivates me as a listener, and I want that tension translating to our audience as well.
I will leave every fucking thing I have on that stage every time. We played a show last year in Anaheim on a Monday night at the World Famous Doll Hut. There were literally about 10 people when we started, including bartenders and the door guy. I was in the most pain I have ever felt in my life that night in 2023…S1 nerve pinched beyond reason, and the sciatic pain crippled me. I actually cried waiting for the boys to lift me into the van to go to the show. But I have video evidence that we kicked ass that night. There were two dear friends in that audience named Irma and Darien, and they deserved EVERYTHING for showing up late on a Monday night. I suspect they got just that.

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